A quick update. We have spent the past year and a half working with an architect, getting permits, getting copies of drawings made, getting a mortgage, getting more copies of drawings made, hiring a contractor, and yes, getting even more copies of drawings made. This process took about a year longer than we anticipated. Whenever anybody tells you that things take longer here on St. Croix, believe them. It just does. There is never any rush, and if there is, it is only you doing the rushing.
The four month architecture drawings took eight, not including some modifications. The one month mortgage approval with Scotia Bank took six months. The permits actually were ready in a reasonable two months or so, both DPNR and CZM. Choosing a builder took a few months. Working with the chosen builder to make modifications to get our costs down took another three months. Of course much of this overlapped, but we were at a stand-still for a few months waiting on the mortgage. When we were finally ready to close, the builder wasn’t quite ready, and then we had the wettest October in history. We closed on our mortgage in early November. Nothing much happened in November except that we were now paying excessive building insurance premiums on a vacant lot.
Shortly after closing my builder told me I should look into mowing the lot. My first thought was “aren’t you just going to bulldoze everything?” I purchased a weed-eater and went to work. I worked for four hours and got about 5% of the lot trimmed. So that little project was a failure, but hey, I got a nice new piece of equipment which I will use approximately two more times.
At the beginning of December our builder started to clear the lot with real machinery. Finally, some tangible progress. Why did I buy that weed-eater?
December 2, 2010
December 4, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 17, 2010
Hey, my first post. I usually let my wife write these entries, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize and recommend an excellent Realtor in St. Croix, Alexandra Bentley. I figured she deserved her own post. My wife mentioned throughout this blog’s short life we started looking online at properties in February 2006 after a trip to St. Croix and the rest of the Virgin Islands. We stumbled upon “the board” shortly after and found Alexandra replying to posts with super detailed information without every trying to blatantly sell her Realtor service. So we began emailing her for information regarding certain real estate we had found online, and of course she provided detailed information along with her opinions of the property (ie “those lots are quite steep and would be a challenge to build on”). We then scheduled a trip for July of last year to look at vacant lots (both waterfront and non-waterfront lots) and were pleased with what we found but frustrated with the prices. At the time they seemed pretty high especially because we were carrying two mortgages. Alexandra spent an entire day driving us around all parts of the island.
Things didn’t work out last summer (read previous posts) but in January we started seeing some listings show up that were “interesting”. Alexandra would email us the listing the day they came on the market. The first one was a “too good to be true” lot in which I purchased a plane ticket to fly down and see, however, the next day the lot already had a contract on it. Trip canceled.
The next week while we were in Belize for vacation we got a call from Alexandra telling us about a large waterfront property with some issues. The struggles we went through to get contract offers signed and faxed would have made for some good “third-world technology” jokes. I am sure Alexandra was as frustrated as we were when 5 offers came in on the first day. We raised our offer price to 25% above listing. They didn’t accept our offer. In the end this was probably for the best.
At the end of February Alexandra emailed a listing to us. We had an offer in by noon on the first day of the listing at slightly under listing price. The listing price was high but after missing out on several properties (including one that we really wanted last summer) we were at the point of “just pay it”. Anyway, after a trip down to St. Croix and meeting with Alexandra and the listing agent, I flew home happy with the lot. The appraiser was not as happy with the lot and appraised it for 5% less than our contract price. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, however, we were approaching the final day of our mortgage contingency period and needed to figure out a way to come up with the additional 5% down payment because the bank would not finance the full amount, only the appraised amount. At this point our lake house hadn’t sold. Alexandra went out of her way to make things work out with the listing agent and seller, but in the end the seller wouldn’t budge even 1%.
We found out Saturday that the sellers wouldn’t help out and had until Tuesday to cancel the offer or risk our earnest money. Monday morning is where Alexandra truly shined. She knew we were stretching our budget and when a different property seven lots away and almost 15% cheaper came on the market Monday morning she did not hesitate to send the listing our way even though she knew her commission would be reduced and it would take much longer for her to get paid. By noon we had rescinded our previous offer (if the seller only knew all he had to do was come down 1% to make it work) and had an offer accepted on the other lot. Thank you Alexandra Bentley.
Alexandra was great throughout the whole process and I cannot recommend her enough. She was available at all hours of the day answering our calls and our emails. Hopefully it was worth it for her.
Dealing with Scotiabank who changed the terms on us at the last minute (a 15 year loan to a 5 year loan) is a story for another day.
Thank you Alexandra.